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Taking Screenshot Of Virtual Hearing Equivalent To Clicking Photo Of Actual Courtroom Proceeding: Calcutta HC Initiates Contempt Against Advocate [Read UPDATE- Contempt Proceedings Dropped]

Mehal Jain
26 Aug 2020 11:59 AM GMT
Taking Screenshot Of Virtual Hearing Equivalent To Clicking Photo Of Actual Courtroom Proceeding: Calcutta HC Initiates Contempt Against Advocate [Read UPDATE- Contempt Proceedings Dropped]
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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday dropped the contempt proceedings against the lawyer in this Case 

[The contempt proceedings are dropped with a warning, however, to Mr. Shiv Ratan Kakrania not to repeat such conduct in future. Rule is discharged. The personal appearance of the contemnor is dispensed with. CC No. 23 of 2020 stands disposed of, said the Court]

Taking a screenshot of the virtual court proceedings is akin to clicking a photograph of an actual court proceeding, the Calcutta High Court recently opined.

Justice Rajashekhar Mantha initiated suo motu contempt action against an advocate-on-record for posting on 'LinkedIn' a screenshot of the virtual court hearing of the day when a favourable interim order was passed by the Single Judge while calling for affidavits. The screenshot was preceded by the following writing: "We are #happy to#share that we managed to obtain an#Ante‐ #Arbitration#Injunction (ICC Arbitration)in a matter before the Calcutta High Court".

The bench also took offence at the use of the term "managed" in connection with the decision of the court to grant a stay on the arbitration proceedings.

"The matter was brought to my notice by a family member, who received it from a classmate from out of town, the day before yesterday', said Justice Mantha, adding that after noticing the publication, the screenshot was circulated by him to the respective counsel for the parties.

The Single Bench indicated to the parties the impropriety evident from the screenshot/publication:

[a] a screenshot of Court Proceeding has been taken which is equivalent to a photograph of a Court Proceeding, without the leave of this Court.

[b] The screenshot was published in a personal web page of a website called 'Linked In' about two months ago without the leave or knowledge of this Court.

[c] an insinuation may be evident from the aforesaid writing on the page in question seen with the screenshot.

The bench, on August 12, recorded that the concerned advocate expressed serious regret and tendered an unconditional apology for having made such publication. "He further submits that no insinuation was at all intended and that it was made bona fide and without any intention whatsoever to affect the dignity of the High Court", the bench noted. The Senior Advocate representing the plaintiffs also expressed shock at the publication and submitted that the same is extremely unfortunate. "He has, however, said that the publication is bona fide and without any intention whatsoever to affect the dignity of this Court", the bench recorded.

Even the Senior Counsel for the original defendants in the suit, submitted that the language used in the website could have been happier and the expression 'managed' should not be misconstrued in any other manner by the Court. He suggested that the expression 'managed' must be understood to mean 'succeeded' i.e. succeeded to have obtained an order in the nature of an anti‐suit injunction / anti arbitration injunction which is otherwise not normally granted.

However, on that occasion, Justice Manthi expressed a desire to "release the matter from this Court's board".

At this, the defendants' side unequivocally urged that substantial resources have been expended for the conduct of this matter before the Court and serious loss and prejudice would be caused to all parties if the matter was released by this Bench. Full confidence in the Court was expressed, with repeated pleadings to continue hearing and pronounce judgement in the matter.

The Senior Advocate for the plaintiffs also assured that his advocate-on-record should and must file an apology by way of an affidavit before this Court, reiterating that substantial time and expenses have been incurred by their clients in conduct of this matter which is in the nature of a high stakes litigation.

Expressing his "displeasure" at the publication made and being of the view that the same has been done in "bad taste", Justice Mantha had conceded to proceed with the matter on considering the earnest request made on both sides, though reiterating that the matter ought not to be further heard by his Court.

The Single Judge had also directed the registry to number a suo motu contempt proceeding against said advocate-on-record, requiring him to explain his conduct.

On Tuesday, the Single Judge took note of an affidavit of August 19 filed by the AOR as ordered by the court. "He has tendered an unconditional apology and has accepted that the publication of the screenshot of Court proceedings without the leave of the Court was incorrect. He has also said that it was deleted immediately after it was notified to him by his Counsel. He has also explained that the statement made in the publication was wholly unintentional. He did not want to lower the dignity or the majesty of the Court. He has also apologised for the same", recorded Justice Mantha.

Considering the same, the bench directed that the contempt proceedings be "dropped with a warning, however, to not to repeat such conduct in future".

Click Here To Download Order [Dated Aug 25]

Click Here To Download Order [Dated Aug 12]

[Read Order]

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]

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